It’s been a few weeks since I last posted on here, but today I wanted to share some North Essex Parking Partnership (NEPP) news with you all.
Hopefully some of you will have already read/heard about this in the media today, but just in case you haven’t, starting from today all NEPP Civil Enforcement Officers, such as myself, will now be wearing body-worn cameras whilst on duty. The NEPP’s Committee decided to provide us with these body-worn cameras due to the number of violent and aggressive incidents which we’ve experienced whilst doing our jobs.
Previously, when an incident has taken place and it’s been reported to the Police, we’ve not always had the evidence for any action to be taken against the offenders, however, now the cameras will be activated when we feel we are at risk and the evidence they record can then be used by the Police and in Courts.
We’re all very pleased to have these cameras which will hopefully mean we experience fewer of these types of incidents and, if/when we do experience abuse, we will now be able to capture this and provide the Police and the Courts with the necessary evidence for them to take action.
We will not be using the cameras to gather evidence in relation to parking enforcement and they are solely being used to protect staff doing their job and enhance our wellbeing.
Myself and my colleagues have all undertaken training on how to use the cameras correctly over the last few weeks and all the information about our policies and FAQs etc. can all be found on the NEPP’s website at https://www.parkingpartnership.org/north_policies.asp.
This week it’s national ‘Get Online Week’ and there are lots of activities taking place across the country to encourage people to go online and to help them use online and digital services.
As part of this national event, some of my colleagues will be on hand in St Mary’s multi-storey car park in Colchester this week to show customers how easy it is to use our cashless parking payment system (MiPermit) and to answer any questions or concerns they may have about using it. Friendly CEOs like myself, will be on hand at the car park today, tomorrow and Saturday helping customers to register and use MiPermit. We’ll also be explaining how customers can top-up their parking while in town, receive a reminder about parking stays and manage an online account.
If this week’s activity in Colchester proves to be a success, the NEPP is keen to roll out the activity in the other areas of north Essex.
Other digital parking-related activity taking place this week is that staff from local organisations such as Essex County Council will be available in Colchester to talk to customers about applying for, renewing and paying for a blue badge online. Online blue badge assistance is available at Colchester Library and Community Hub today 10.00 – 16.00 and at the Crown Post Office, Head Street, Colchester tomorrow (Friday 16 October) 10.00 – 16.00.
If you’re reading this blog, then you’re probably familiar with using the internet, however if you’d like some assistance or advice about using MiPermit or blue badges or know a friend, family member or neighbour who might benefit, then please let them know about the activities that are taking place as we’re always keen to help our customers.
This week I thought I’d take a break from writing about specific parking matters and tell you a bit more about my role as a Civil Enforcement Officer (CEO) with the NEPP.
Last autumn, the NEPP offered its enforcement staff the opportunity to become Police Accredited under the Community Safety Accreditation Scheme (CSAS). This is a voluntary scheme under which Police Chief Constables can choose to accredit people employed in roles which involve maintaining and improving community safety e.g. park and neighbourhood wardens. Once they’re accredited these staff have additional but specific powers to help them in their community roles (so in my case, powers which specifically relate to my role in parking).
Some of my colleagues and I took this offer up and have now been through the vetting process, done the training and passed the assessments. Once we’ve been presented with our Essex Police Accreditation identification badges and armbands we’ll be able to use the additional powers we’ve been given to increase community safety and help reduce crime and disorder.
As a parking CEO, examples of the types of powers and circumstances under which I can use them include:
being able to control traffic for purposes other than escorting a load of exceptional dimensions and to direct traffic for the purposes of escorting abnormal loads
being given a name and address following violent and aggressive behaviour from customers
issuing a fixed penalty notice for littering when a Penalty Charge Notice has been thrown on the floor by a customer
I’ve really enjoyed the training and work involved in becoming Police Accredited and like knowing that once I’ve been issued with my national accreditation badge I’ll be able to make even more of a difference in helping to keep our roads safe and free from congestion – after all that’s what being a CEO is all about.
Last week, I wrote about cashless parking being available in Braintree, Colchester, Epping Forest and Uttlesford via MiPermit and I thought that this week I’d follow it up by telling you how this works when car parks offer free parking for a limited period.
When parking in any car park, please make sure you check prices and even if parking is free check how long the free parking is for and whether or not you still need to display a ticket (which is usually the case as Civil Enforcement Officers like me need to know how long a vehicle has been parked).
If you chose to pay for parking using MiPermit, the system will automatically include any free time if your stay goes beyond the allocated free time. For example, last month Epping Forest District Council began charging for parking in their long stay car parks on Saturdays and Sundays but the first two hours are free. So, if I want to park in one of Epping Forest’s long stay car parks for 3 hours on a Saturday, MiPermit will create a virtual parking stay for the whole three hours but will only charge me for the third hour when my free two hour stay is up. Likewise if I was going to park there and was going to stay less than two hours I wouldn’t use MiPermit (as there wouldn’t be any payment needed) but I would still need to go and print a ticket from the machine so that a Civil Enforcement Officer (CEO) would know how long I’d being parked there and would know when my free 2 hours of parking was up.
You can find out more about each of the NEPP’s authorities car parks and charges by visiting the NEPP’s website at www.parkingpartnership.org
With a mini heatwave predicted for the week ahead, I expect the roads and car parks will be busy with people wanting to get out and about and make the most of the lovely summer weather whilst it lasts! I’m sure the coast will be busy this week and today sees the start of the two week-long Summer Screen in Colchester Castle Park which I’m sure will attract a big crowd, especially with the live Wimbledon matches being shown. What great weather for it!
Whilst I’m working all week, I’ll still be able to enjoy the sunny weather as I’ll be out patrolling every day this week and being outdoors is something I really love about my job – I just need to make sure I apply my sun screen regularly! We have lots of beautiful places in north Essex, including the coast, parks, countryside and vibrant town centres, all of which I get to work in and enjoy as part of my job as a Civil Enforcement Officer.
At the weekend I had a day off and was making the most of the lovely weather and doing a bit of gardening now that things are really starting to grow with the better weather we’ve been having. Whilst I was out in my garden, one of my neighbours came to chat to me over the fence and he mentioned that he’s been reading my blog and asked if I was losing out on commission from Penalty Charge Notices (PCNs) by spending my time writing my blog! I was a bit surprised by this question as none of the NEPP’s Civil Enforcement Officers (CEOs) work on commission, nor do any other public sector CEOs. I am paid the same every month whether I issue 20 or 200 Penalty Charge Notices, the most important thing is that any Penalty Charge Notices that I do issue are correct and valid. Not only is this how it should be, but it’s also better for the NEPP because otherwise it would cost the organisation more (in time and resources) in the long run if PCNs are issued incorrectly or inappropriately. To make sure our enforcement is fair, transparent and consistent my colleagues and I regularly receive training and have lots of knowledge and experience of parking matters to deal with dangerous, careless and negligent parking.
What a busy week it’s been in the UK with the bank holiday, the Royal Baby and the Elections. For me in my role it’s been business as usual and I was working on Monday which was a busy day with lots of you out and about making the most of the lovely Bank Holiday weather (I hope you all found my post last week useful and remembered to check the restrictions before parking!).
This morning I met up with some of my colleagues who work in Harlow and they showed me an email they’d had from a local resident thanking them for issuing Penalty Charge Notices to vehicles which had been parked on double yellow lines overnight causing a hazard and nuisance to road users and residents. It’s always nice to get a compliment and I was really pleased for my colleagues and for the NEPP, as so often people forget that the reason parking restrictions exist and that we enforce them is to keep the roads throughout north Essex safe, accessible and free from congestion and it’s great to hear this being acknowledged.